What Causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?

In this video I answer the question, “What Causes Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?”

Well, welcome everyone. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg, and today I’m going to be talking about all the different causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. So Hashimoto’s thyroid disease is the most common autoimmune disease in the world. And it’s also the number cause of hypothyroidism in the world. One of the things about Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is that conventional medicine doesn’t really recognize Hashimoto’s thyroiditis as a major problem. And what I mean by that is that if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the treatment is going to be the same for you if you just have hypothyroidism and don’t have an autoimmune disease.

So the treatment for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is going to be prescription thyroid hormone. So it’s really important to find out why you have Hashimoto’s and what’s causing it. So I put all the research together over my many years of practice and all the research that I’ve done on thyroid disorders, and I put it together into a nice chart which shows you all the possible causes of Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. So here we see Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in the diagram with all of the different causes surrounding it. And the first one I want to talk about is the Epstein-Barr virus.

So autoimmune diseases can be caused by a variety of different things. But infections are really a major, major cause and a major overlooked factor in autoimmune disease. So the Epstein-Barr virus is probably the most common infection that causes Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. So Epstein-Barr virus is the virus that causes mononucleosis, also known as the kissing disease. And genetically, some people just have a really hard time controlling the Epstein-Barr virus throughout their life. So, for example, in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the research has shown that if we were to biopsy the thyroid gland and test the tissue for the Epstein-Barr virus, you would find extremely high concentrations of the Epstein-Barr virus in the thyroid gland of individuals who have Hashimoto’s.

So if you have Hashimoto’s, the first thing you want to get tested for is Epstein-Barr virus and that’s done with a blood test. The next factor is iodine, a highly controversial topic, in not so much conventional medicine but in alternative medicine. There are people on two sides of the fence, those who are pro iodine for Hashimoto’s and those who are against iodine. And I land somewhere in the middle. It really depends on the individual and the individual case. But there is some research out there that shows that when iodine is added to the food supply in certain populations, like in Denmark and Turkey as examples, the incidence of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis did increase significantly when iodine was added to the food supply.

The other thing we know is that some research out of Japan shows that if you give someone iodine who has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, you increase what’s called lymphocytic infiltration into the thyroid gland. Basically that means that you create more inflammation into the gland. So iodine can be a potential trigger. Again, it’s highly controversial and a big topic which we won’t cover today. But you do need to be aware of it. The next thing is going to be bacteria called Yersinia enterocolitica. This is actually in the same family as the bacteria that caused the bubonic plague, also known as the black death, throughout Europe many years ago. That was called Yersinia pestis transmitted by rat fleas.

Yersinia enterocolitica you can get just from contaminated food or water and it gets into the gut. And usually your body fights it off. You get some diarrhea, lose stools, maybe feel like you have some food poisoning and your body just gets rid of it. But some individuals, it sets up shop, so to speak, in the gut barrier. And the immune system not only attacks the Yersinia, but it also attacks thyroid tissue, because to your immune system, Yersinia looks just like thyroid tissue and that’s what we call molecular mimicry. Molecular mimicry basically means that your immune system is not only making antibodies against an infection, but it’s also making antibodies against your own tissue that looks just like the infection.

So Yersinia, like Epstein Barr virus is tested in the blood. It can also be tested in the stool, but stool analysis is going to miss the vast majority of Yersinia infections. So it really needs to be done in the blood. So by treating the Yersinia, you can remove the reason why the immune system is overactive and attacking the thyroid gland. Herpes 1, 2, and 6… Herpes 1 and 2 are going to be sort of the classic herpes-type infections that people get where they get either genital or oral outbreaks. Herpes 6, you don’t really see any skin outbreaks. A lot of the symptoms tend to be more fatigue and related to the brain or neurological symptons. But these can be transmitted from person to person pretty easily.

Post partum, that means after giving birth… many women will develop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis after they give birth. And so you’ll see significant decline in some women’s health after they give birth and that can happen due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi is the bacteria that causes Lyme. And there is some research that connects Hashimoto’s thyroiditis with Lyme disease. So that’s transmitted by a tick and so that is another thing to be aware of. If you have Lyme disease, you should also be tested for Hashimoto’s and vice versa. Cytomegalovirus, this is also a herpes virus.

I didn’t mention before that the Epstein Barr virus is also in the herpes family. Somewhere around 50 percent of the population has cytomegalovirus. And there are some connections there with Hashimoto’s. Not even close to being as common as the Epstein Barr virus, but again, another infection to be aware of. Q fever caused by the Coxiella burnetii bacteria, very, very rare. You won’t really see that much. Rubella and rubeola, these are the two different types of measles. Again, an uncommon underlining cause of Hashimoto’s. Most people have had measles but just more infections to be aware of.

Toxic heavy metals, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. Mercury is really the major player here when it comes to autoimmune thyroid disease. The majority of mercury that we get comes from mercury containing dental amalgams. And then, of course, we also get some from fish and then also from the burning of coal which gets up into the atmosphere and is found in the rain and in the soil in the areas close to coal plants. Staph and strep infections, rickettsial infections… Rickettsia is transmitted by insects, ticks, and mosquitoes, more of an uncommon cause of Hashimoto’s, but another infection to be aware of. A lot of times we’ll see Rickettsia as a co-infection along with Lyme disease.

What Causes Hashimoto's Thyroiditis

And then talking about the gut, some of you are probably aware of what’s known as leaky gut. And gluten, celiac disease, and a lot of food sensitivities can lead to leaky gut syndrome. And since about 70 percent of your immune system is in the gut, whenever someone has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, we always want to look at the gut and food sensitivities and if there’s a gluten sensitivity, or if the patient has celiac disease, these are all things that we need to be aware of. So if that is a connection, of course, we’ll want to do a gluten-free diet and avoid food sensitivities that we find on blood testing, and then do a leaky gut protocol to try and heal that up so the immune system can become more balanced.

Coxsackie B, again, one of the rare infections. This is a virus that is connected to Hashimoto’s. Helicobacter pylori, this is, I would put in the top three, along with the Epstein Barr virus and Yersinia as triggers of Hashimoto’s disease. So Helicobacter pylori, everyone has it in the stomach. People who get ulcers… the ulcers are usually caused by H. pylori. When someone is under a lot of stress for a long period of time, the high cortisol levels, they weaken the immune system in the gut, and it allows for bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections to take hold, and H. pylori is one of those. It’s not only connected with Hashimoto’s but also with Graves disease.

So Helicobacter pylori is, again, one of the big three, and we’ll test that in most people with Hashimoto’s. And there are three different ways to test for it, the breath test, which is the most sensitive. It can also be tested in the stool and then also in the blood as well. Another infection, the parvovirus B19, a very common and more common in children, but parvovirus can be a trigger of Hashimoto’s. Hepatitis C is pretty interesting, because they found that the thyroid can actually become a reservoir for the Hepatitis C virus. So hep C can be transmitted through drug users who use infected needles and then it can also be sexually transmitted.

And normally, the hepatitis C virus just stays in the liver. But there is some research that shows it can travel to the thyroid and be a trigger and a potentiating factor in Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. HTLV1, this is a tropical virus, extremely rare trigger of Hashimoto’s, but something to be aware of unless you’ve spend a lot of time in tropical areas and you developed Hashimoto’s while you were there or after coming back, that could be something to think about. Cigarette smoke and second-hand cigarette smoke, this is a big one. A lot of patients I see who have had many, many years of second-hand cigarette smoke such as from their parents or if they’re smokers themselves, this can be a potential trigger for Hashimoto’s.

Now there is some cadmium in some cigarettes so that could be a potential connection there along with the fact that cigarette smoke is just highly toxic, and the thyroid is very sensitive to environmental toxins. The flu, sometimes we’ll see someone has a really, really bad flu, and they’ll develop Hashimoto’s. Excess estrogen, so one of the things we know is that if you have too much estrogen in your body, this can actually inhibit your body’s ability to control the Epstein Barr virus. And so the more body fat you have, usually the more estrogen you’re going to have and that goes for men and women. So with men, too much body fat will create excess conversion of their testosterone into estrogen.

And then women, the more body fat they have, the more estrogen they’ll have. And then they’ll get an imbalance in progesterone and estrogen which really, really throws off the immune system. Enteroviruses, these are fairly uncommon causes of Hashimoto’s but can be a potential trigger. And then HIV, this can also be a factor in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. So again, the big three are really the Epstein Barr virus, Yersinia enterocolitica, and H. pylori. Other big things to look for are the leaky gut, gluten and food sensitivities, too much estrogen, and then a lot of these other infections I talked about are going to be a little bit more rare compared to the big three.

So it’s a matter of figuring out the underlying cause of the Hashimoto’s and why the immune system is out of balance and why your immune system is attacking your own thyroid gland. So we’ll test. We’ll deal with the infections or any of these other causes, and try and get the immune system balanced. So autoimmune disease is basically… your body goes through a certain amount of wear and tear every month, and it’s up to your immune system to keep up with that wear and tear. And if the immune system can no longer keep up with the daily wear and tear on your body, then autoimmune disease can develop. And so these infections, the leaky gut, as example, it’s just too much stress on you immune system.

Things go haywire and then the body starts attacking its own tissue. So if you want more cutting-edge information on thyroid disorders, I have a lot of information on my website, drhedberg.com. And I do send out a newsletter on the thyroid. So if you want some regular updates on the latest research on thyroid disorders, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves, and hypothyroidism, this would be a good thing to sign up for so you stay up to date. So I hope you enjoyed this webinar on the causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hopefully now you have a better understanding of why people develop Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or maybe why you have developed it. Now you know what to ask for and what to look for if you do have it from the doctor that you’re working with. So take care everyone. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg, and we’ll see you at the next webinar. Take care.

Healing Hashimoto’s is within your reach.

Get started with our free ebook today.